If the Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon is about anything other than running and community, it's business.
The inaugural event, scheduled to step off at 7 a.m. Sunday, involves 19 businesses as sponsors, another 26 as race expo vendors and plenty more as possible beneficiaries from increased foot traffic brought by runners and their fans.
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By the numbersNaperville Marathon sponsors: 19
Race expo vendors: 30
Naperville Running Company pace groups: 21
Race participants: Nearly 3,500
Naper Events, LLC, is the business organizing the race, and local merchants are among those lining up for the 26.2- and 13.1-mile runs.
While economic development experts say it's difficult to predict the impact of a race that hasn't happened, Naperville's business community is embracing the distance-running challenge that's set to bring nearly 3,500 runners to town.
"Anything that promotes Naperville and brings visitors to our town is always positive," said Mike Evans, president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce. "I know businesses have a lot of enthusiasm and embraced the opportunity the marathon brings. We've worked to get businesses downtown and elsewhere engaged and ready for the fun."
The organization with the biggest presence in Naperville's marathon is its title sponsor, Edward Hospital. The hospital signed a contract for one year of sponsorship with the option to renew for two years as the race's namesake, medical services provider and top charity partner.
"Being the title sponsor is just a perfect fit for Edward as the area's premier provider of health care services and a leader in promoting fitness and wellness and disease prevention," said Brian Davis, the hospital's chief marketing officer. "It's going to be a huge happening in Naperville and we're always looking for opportunities to connect with the community."
Another logical partnership is Naperville Running Company's presence as the running store sponsor. The shop is providing pacers at 19 speeds to help marathoners and half marathoners meet their goals, along with selling official Naperville Marathon apparel and setting up a tent near the starting line for runners to buy last-minute gear like anti-chafing skin balm.
"It makes sense," owner Kris Hartner said. "It's the Naperville Marathon, we're Naperville Running Company."
Whole Foods Naperville has signed on to offer something every runner will be craving at the finish line -- food.
"We are all about health and healthy eating and being involved with the community," Debra Kwiatt, marketing and community relations specialist, said.
Whole Foods will be supplying bananas and setting up a bagel bar and topping station with almond butter, raisins, chocolate chips, honey, cinnamon, cream cheeses and even salad greens. The spread will let runners "personalize their bagel when they get back and have something fun to reward themselves with," Kwiatt said. "After running a marathon, it's pretty draining on your body and you need to refuel."
Other sponsors include Buona Beef, Schillerstrom Homes, Wise Boxer Pour House and running stores such as Roadrunner Sports and Dick Pond Athletics.
"It's nice to have a local marathon other than Chicago," said Denise Hefferin, manager of Dick Pond Athletics' Lisle location. "It's been really good to challenge people in our running groups."
Race's ripple effect
Christine Jeffries, president and CEO of Naperville Development Partnership, said she's noticed more runners than ever along popular routes like the Riverwalk in downtown Naperville, and she predicts the city's athletic stores have been seeing increased business. About 95 percent of the nearly 3,500 runners in the marathon and half marathon are from the Chicago area, with 44 percent of half marathoners and 34 percent of marathoners living in Naperville.
"I imagine a lot of shoes and gear have been sold so there's that ripple effect," Jeffries said.
The Development Partnership works to recruit businesses into Naperville and tracks economic data on spending and tax rates in the city. Its umbrella includes the Naperville Convention and Visitors Bureau, which promotes the 17 hotels, 250 restaurants and hundreds of shops within the city.
"We'll be the concierge for amenities in Naperville," said Carmia Stanovich, director of sales for the convention and visitors bureau.
Jeffries said studies conducted after previous sporting events, such as the NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships held in March at North Central College, have found a family of four spends an average of $500 over a two-day weekend of travel to a game or race. She said it's difficult to predict how the marathon will affect local spending this weekend, but the Development Partnership will ask restaurants for sales figures afterward.
"We will have a better idea of the economic impact after this year," Jeffries said.
Race organizers say they will be conducting a study to determine the financial effects of the race, which could involve surveying runners about how much they and their families and friends spent in town. The chamber also plans to survey members once the race concludes.
"We're going to be bringing in a lot of people from the outside who will be visiting Naperville for the first time," Race Director Bob Hackett said. "This is the kickoff for the Christmas season, too. Merchants have the opportunity to really put their best foot forward."
Downtown Naperville Alliance moved the Holiday Grand Illumination event to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 to coincide with race weekend, and Katie Wood, executive director, said she's compiling a list of shops and restaurants running marathon weekend specials or opening early Sunday to broadcast the race.
Terri Hayes' downtown hair salon, Artistic Creations, might not be the first place racers run to after crossing the finish line, but she said she's still excited for the residual effects of the city's first marathon. An experienced runner herself, she's participating in the half marathon while her husband, Ralph, runs the full marathon as a pacer.
"Having a business in town, I felt it was really something to support. It's local, it's the first time, I had to be a part of it," Hayes said. "I'm excited to see a lot of familiar faces -- friends, family and clients out there cheering us on from the start to finish."